Determining Liability in a Personal Injury Case
If you were involved in an accident, proving who was at fault may seem like a simple matter: you know that the other guy did it. Yet in a court of law, it is a bit more complicated. There are various rules to follow, and standards that must be met in order to prevail.
In Florida, this means proving that a defendant in a personal injury case was negligent. If you can do so, you will be entitled to recover for your losses. An experienced attorney can work with you to help build your claim, starting with a thorough investigation of the case.
The results of an investigation can be used to form the basis of a personal injury lawsuit. Even if the case does not go to trial, this information can be used to achieve a favorable settlement. Read on to learn more about how to prove liability in a personal injury case.
Conducting an Investigation
The first step in determining liability in a personal injury case is for your personal injury attorney in Miami to start an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident. This is a critical element in figuring out who is legally responsible for the damages that you have suffered. The insurance company for the other person or entity involved may conduct their own investigation as well.
An investigation may involve a number of steps, such as interviewing witnesses, reviewing surveillance footage, and monitoring social media. For car accidents, working with accident reconstruction experts can help to determine what may have happened leading up to a collision. Visiting and photographing the site of an accident, like a business where a slip and fall happened, may also provide invaluable information about the case.
Beyond gathering facts about the incident, an investigation will also involve analyzing the case to determine if any other parties may be responsible. For example, in a motorcycle accident claim that happened because of a poorly maintained road, your attorney may determine that a state or local government authority was responsible for maintaining the road. The governmental body may be brought into the case, but must be done so according to special Florida rules on suing state agencies or subdivisions.
Proving Liability in Court
In every personal injury case, it is the duty of the plaintiff — the person who was injured — to prove that the other party (the defendant) was responsible for his or her injuries. After conducting a thorough investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident, your attorney will then use the results of that investigation to demonstrate that the defendant is liable for any and all losses that you suffered.
Personal injury cases are based on a theory of negligence, which is a failure to use the car towards others that a reasonable or prudent person would do in the same or similar circumstances, or taking an action that a reasonable person would not take. A person or other entity (such as a business) can be negligent in a number of ways. For example, if a business knew that its floor tile was cracked and crumbling and was a tripping hazard, but did not fix it, that may be considered negligent behavior, as a reasonable business owner would have repaired the tile.
To win a personal injury case, a plaintiff must prove four elements:
- The defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff to avoid acting in a negligent manner.
- The defendant breached that duty of care.
- The defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
- He or she suffered damages.
If these four factors (duty, breach, causation and damages) can be proven, then the defendant will be held liable and be required to pay for the losses suffered by the plaintiff.
In demonstrating that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, the key factor will be the level of care owed. This will vary depending on the type of personal injury case. For example, drivers owe other people on the road a duty to operate their vehicle safely and with caution, while doctors owe their patients a high duty of care in providing competent medical care.
Next, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached that duty of care by acting in a negligent manner. If the defendant failed to act in a way that an average person would in the same or a similar situation, then they breached the duty of care. Note that if the defendant is a professional — such as a doctor — then the standard will not be an average person, but an average person in their profession.
After showing that the defendant breached the duty of care, a plaintiff has to prove that this breach was the actual and direct cause of their injuries. If you were in a car accident and the crash caused a broken leg, that will satisfy the element of causation. But if you walked away from the car accident without any injuries, and then got stung by a bee (causing an allergic reaction) while waiting for a tow truck driver, that defendant may not be held liable for that injury.
Finally, the plaintiff must be able to prove that they suffered damages. This may include losses such as medical expenses, property damage, lost wages and loss of future earning potential. In Florida, you may also be able to seek damages for pain and suffering that you experienced as a result of your injuries.
How a Miami Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
It can be tricky to establish liability in a personal injury case, particularly if more than one potential defendant was involved or if the facts are complicated. By conducting an investigation and then applying the results of that investigation to the legal elements of a personal injury claim, a personal injury attorney in Miami can make a strong claim for compensation on behalf of someone who has been hurt in an accident.
Established in 1997, Kaire & Heffernan represents victims of all types of accidents in Miami and the surrounding areas. We offer free initial consultations, where we explain your rights and options. Contact our office at 305-372-0123 or online to learn more or to schedule an appointment.
Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 15 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for 4 years.